Gov. Brown extends use of carpool lanes for electric cars, others

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday approved a four-year extension of carpool lane access for electric cars and low-emission vehicles, but vetoed a bill that would have allowed solo motorists in regular cars access to those lanes on two Los Angeles County freeways during off-peak hours.

All together, the governor signed 20 pieces of legislation Saturday, including six bills promoting the use of low- and zero-emission cars.


"Today, we reaffirm our commitment in California to an electric vehicle future," Brown said in a statement.

Under one bill approved by Brown, cars with white vehicle stickers from the state -- including electric, hydrogen fuel cell and compressed natural-gas vehicles — will be able to use carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2019. Without Brown's signature, the access would have expired Jan. 1, 2015. Former Assemblyman Robert Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) introduced AB 266.

The governor also signed a companion measure that the extends the state's green sticker program allowing  certain low-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, to drive in high-occupancy or "diamond" lanes until 2019, or until federal authorization expires. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) wrote SB 286.

Related bills signed by the governor make electric-vehicle charging stations more accessible to all drivers, develop new rules to include charging stations in apartment buildings and non-residential structures and provide $30 million in incentives for hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses.

But Brown vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that would have allowed lone motorists in regular cars to use the carpool lanes on a 13-mile stretch of the 134 Freeway in Los Angeles County during off-peak hours, the rule in much of the state.  The bill also would have allowed solo drivers to use a section of the 210 Freeway when it was not rush hour.

Brown suggested traffic in the area justifies the special rules. "Carpool lanes are especially important in Los Angeles County to reduce pollution and maximize use of freeways," Brown wrote in his veto message. "We should retain the current 24/7 carpool lane control."

Gatto said he was disappointed.

"The policy contained in AB 405 works in Northern California, and I don't see how keeping Southern Californians with atypical commutes in traffic is good for the environment or fair," he said.

Brown signed AB 8, which provides an extension until 2024 for a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees that was to expire in 2016. Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) introduced the bill to help pay for clean-energy programs including the expansion of hydrogen fueling stations in the state.